The roadside garbage problem in Bracebridge has reached shocking levels, and this is particularly noticeable in rural highway areas including sensitive wetlands and remaining “wilderness” corridors. As an experienced first-hand observer, I have collected thousands of discarded beer cans, water and juice bottles, coffee cups and/or lids, and a surprising variety of other cast-off items from ditches and surrounding streams near my cabin retreat, sometimes retrieving beer bottles and fast food wrappers as young trout dart by my finger tips in the cold water.
There have been CD’s and batteries, electronics, articles of clothing, food containers of every description, building and automotive products, make-up and sunscreen bottles, as well as an infinite supply of cigarette butts that are beyond retrieval. Curiosity has driven me to quantify and document the recurring brand names in the trash, which mostly reads as a “who’s who” of the fast food and beverage industries in Ontario. All of these items have been carelessly or willfully tossed out of a vehicle simply to relieve a thoughtless littering person of a trivial material burden. Instead, these burdens have now been passed en masse to the natural order in a location that was otherwise once pristine.
On occasion there have been larger items such as broken appliances. Once I even found an entire phone booth that had been discarded as “bush junk”.
From a conservation point of view, all this junk is simply an unnecessary stress added to our natural eco-systems. It is undeniably an eye-sore, sometimes toxic and usually not biodegradable. It flies in the face of the Bracebridge and Muskoka that I know, where much of the appeal results from a fine balance between natural beauty and recreational living. As a tourism-based economy, we can only strive to make it as convenient as possible for people to recycle or dispose of items in a responsible manner.
From safety or legal points of view, this littering behaviour obviously says a lot about certain drivers on our roads. Very alarming is the huge volume of alcoholic beverage empties of all types that can be found cast along our roadsides. Most commonly beer cans and bottles, these drink containers are the unwanted evidence left behind by a legion of roadway partiers. There are ice cube trays, articles of clothing, and pretty much any other “party favour” imaginable. Sadly, it is not uncommon to find a shattered snapping turtle or other road-kill in amongst the garbage. This is just another reminder for us all to drive with extra care, especially when traveling remote roadways by night.
It is not so difficult to agree that there are better alternatives than littering, and we can only do our best to encourage these environmentally friendly options to the general public through education and an attitude of caring. For the sake of the natural beauty that defines Bracebridge, we can only hope that this will be enough.
Approximately the size of a praying mantis, the stone fly is an impressive looking insect to find. It is also an auspicious find, as stone flies are said to be indicators of good natural water quality. Hopefully this bodes well for the future of the Black River and its environs.